Okay okay. Alright, alright, alright. So I hope at least some of you will be familiar with Dave Whyte, or at least his mesmerising tumblr, Bees & Bombs. Put simply he repeatedly creates ‘geometry in motion’. But you won’t believe what happens next. They’re mind-bending and hypnotic in a way only gifs can be, only they outsmart you with their structural complexity and their minimal titles. They make you genuinely curious about the mastermind behind them. So to scratch your itch here is an interview with the man himself. I have tried to show a varied display of Bees & Bombs gifs below while keeping a strong sense of the overall feel of the account, but certainly do check out the full collection in your own time and with your friends. Or keep refreshing this Bees & Bombs roulette. Also, full disclosure to maintain my journalistic integrity, this happens to be the first Georgiadabizz interview I’ve done with someone I personally know and so I’ve tried not be too biased and gushing about what a cool, super talented, amazing, brilliant guy he is, but it’s all true.
~~~ In honour of this interview I have changed the wallpaper background to a recently designed Bees & Bombs gif, ‘rainbow friends’. Also, all of the gifs should click through to their original home. Enjoy! ~~~
Hi! So how did Bees & Bombs start?
I started Bees & Bombs with my pal Brian in 2011, originally as a place to archive idiotic joke pictures we were making. About a month later I saw that there were people on Tumblr making cool abstract animations and so I started shamelessly imitating them and uploading my modest contributions to Bees & Bombs. Eventually we gave up on the dumb joke pictures and Brian stepped down (amicably).
So you were engaging with and responding to internet culture, and then finding your own voice?
I don’t think I would describe the earliest posts as based on ‘internet culture’ really — they were just stupid photoshops of our friends, or scenes from The Simpsons or that kind of thing. Actually, looking back at the first few pages now, it looks like I really was doing the geometrical stuff pretty much from the get-go. The dumber stuff petered out after a few months.
This the first purely geometric gif you made?
As far as I can remember that is indeed the first geometric gif I made. I think it’s one of those ones that you can imagine spinning either way; like that ballerina thing? Except it doesn’t really work that well. You can see I’ve tagged it “shameless dvdp imitation” there since I was just trying to be him.
You have remained quite loyal to the gif form, do you have any insight as to why you like creating gifs so much?
The reason I started out with the gif as a medium instead of full proper videos was simply because I didn’t have any software that could create videos. But I can see why it’s an appealing format in general. They’re short and small, they play automatically usually, they don’t have distracting sound. The format certainly has its flaws but for the kind of thing I do it’s a good match: they require a fairly limited colour palette. Also I think that there’s the expectation that a gif should loop smoothly, which forces me to think a bit more about how any particular motion works.
Has your background studying Theoretical Physics helped you imagine new loops? And have you always been basically naturally gifted at math?
I have always had a knack for maths as far as I can remember. I think my background in physics helps me in that I’m very comfortable with the basics of trigonometry and such, but my physics work is generally completely unrelated to my animation work.
Have you always had access to a computer (growing up)?
Yeah as far as I can remember. I can vaguely recall playing with ‘Paintbrush’ which was what Paint was called before Windows 95. So that must have been quite a while ago.
Cool, I’m always curious about that. I had access really only at my parents’ work until my pre-teens – and would also mainly go on for Paint/Paintbrush and then Photoshop. Perhaps, could you list the software that you do use and maybe guide us through your gif making process.
Processing is the main piece of software I use — I think it’s basically a programming environment aimed towards design. It’s free and there’s a lovely interactive video introduction at hello.processing.org. Before I heard about Processing I used Mathematica, which was software we were taught at college, which I realised had some quite nice graphics functions.
In technical terms the gif-making process is simple enough. I set up a sketch in Processing and it spits out a load of individual frames as images. I use a weird little program called Gifsicle to assemble them into a gif. Typically the file size ends up bigger than Tumblr or anywhere will accept so I have to use Photoshop (the only non-open-source link in the chain) to compress it down. Sometimes I’ll do some last-minute tweaks on the colour in Photoshop as well.
Are you an advocate of the open source philosophy?
I’m absolutely a fan of the open source movement — Processing itself is open source and I try to release the source code to my gifs (and always on request if I forget to post it up front). I’m not dogmatic about it though: I happily use closed-source software as well.
Yeah, I have notice that you’re very open and helpful when people ask questions. Can we side step a bit to the neocities you design, do you take a different approach with these. They’re interactive for one.
Yeah I feel like they’re interactive in the most minimal way. There’s nothing much deeper than things responding to where the mouse is.
(Reader, give some of v v v these a go)
Do you have any early gif memories? ( I remember making one on photoshop aged about 10 of a daisy being stood on but thinking of it more like making a cartoon. I think I first gained consciousness of gifs when I began very carefully custom designing my myspace profile 2004-ish – sparkly indulgent stuff – but still not quite thinking about the idea of a gif in it’s own terms.)
My earliest gif memory is probably the Hamster Dance website which was quite big back in the day. Gifs of hamsters dancing. It had a fun song as well. I have never made a blingee.
We were talking about childhood computer usage and I totally forgot to mention LOGO which is like a programming language for kids — this little cursor draws a line on the screen and you give it commands for how far to go and when to turn, what colour to draw etc. We were taught it once in primary school and it blew my lil mind. Probably planted some code art seed which germinated for a while, who knows.
Who of your friend’s/peer’s work are you most impressed by?
I would feel very strange trying to rank my artist friends’ work, so I can’t pick any favourites (glad I have so many talented and cool artist friends though). A few fellow tumblr gif people who I am always jealous of would include dvdp.tumblr.com, who I initially was trying to emulate; 30000fps.tumblr.com who makes the most stylish shiny things; and bigblueboo.tumblr.com who is always coming up with stuff I wish I’d come up with. There’s about a hundred others springing to mind as well.
I presume you have a smart phone, could you list the apps you use most often.
I have a smartphone, but it’s starting to somehow shrink in terms of storage space so I’ve had to delete non-essential apps! I’m quite boring in terms of what I use anyway; facebook and twitter mostly. I’m a recent convert to Instagram too. Gifs don’t tend to run so nicely on mobile: twitter have managed to get them smooth enough, but they’re really jerky on the tumblr app (on my phone anyway) so I don’t really bother with tumblr on the phone.
How would you rate your internet use out of 10? (10 being the highest achievement, 0 being the lowest.)
I’m surely a 9 or 10 on the internet use scale (if I’m not I’d hate to see one). Is it an achievement to be on the internet all the time?